I’m constantly fascinated by reports in which someone with an important-sounding title at a company makes a statement that sets the blogosphere and twitterverse ablaze. For example, a country-level marketing manager or an evangelist. Obviously it must be true because the Estonian Marketing Manager said it, right? No offense to Estonia, but for a large U.S.-based multi-national the General Manager of the Estonian subsidiary is corporate middle management at best, and the Marketing Manager working for him/her may not even be that. The same holds for “evangelists”.
In a modern large multi-national the corporate business units tightly control the information flow out to their field as well as other internal businesses and support organizations. Everything is on a need to know basis, and even senior executives without a clear need to know may have the information flow to them restricted. Organizations will put different details (including false information) into internal disclosures so that they can trace leaks back to the source. The closer you get to going public the more people have a need to know, and so the information flow from field people should get more accurate. But still the trend is to keep details as close to the vest as possible for as long as possible.
Thinking about Microsoft specifically I cast a wary eye on futures statements by anyone who isn’t at least a General Manager (or Distinguished Engineer, Technical Fellow, or a Director reporting directly to a CVP) in a Product Group. Others, such as the Program Manager who owns the feature area being discussed are also reliable sources. But if a field person, even one with a fancy title, speaks out of turn I wonder if they have any clue what they are talking about. They may be saying something they heard through the grapevine, or that is out of date, rather than truly being in the know.
And when partners speak about each other that is even more suspect. Again, what are the odds that the Estonian Marketing Manager of Company A can accurately say what Company B is doing when they may not even have accurate information about Company A’s plans? They are low. If Nokia CEO Stephen Elop makes some comment about Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 I would tend to believe him, but when random other Nokia employees (again, even with important sounding titles) speak out of turn about Windows Phone 8 I take what they say with a large grain of salt.
You may wonder what prompted this blog entry, and it was the conflicting information coming out of Nokia and the BBC about a version of iPlayer for Windows Phone. Someone from Nokia apparently spoke out of turn, leading the BBC to deny everything. The BBC will tell us what they want us to know when they are ready for us to know.
Finally let me apologize to Estonia for using them in my example, I needed someplace tiny yet big enough a multi-national would actually have a local presence (unlike Monaco for example). The capital, Tallinn ,was one of my favorite stops on a Baltic cruise last year and I’d definitely recommend a visit.